Tire deadline

Time to take off studs

Posted: Monday, April 10, 2006

It isn't just accountants working to meet their April 15 deadline.

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With less than a week before Juneau police start ticketing people for driving with studded tires, these are busy days at Les Schwab Tires.

"We're going to end up doing 61 (vehicles) today," Assistant General Manager Bill Wilcox said Saturday. He expected a crowd at 7 a.m. today when the shop at 8555 Airport Blvd. begins taking vehicles for tire change-overs. "I'm going to say we'll be cutting them off by 8:30 (a.m.)"

In Juneau, state law allows studded tires on the road from Oct. 1 to April 15.

While Wilcox said his shop charges $68.25 for changing over tires without rims - and doesn't charge for people who come in with their tires mounted - a ticket for driving with studded tires Sunday will run $110.

Some people do come in after the change-over, he said. Last year, a woman came in after getting four tickets for driving with studded tires. "They think we're in cahoots with (the police)," Wilcox said. "We're not."

Juneau Police Capt. Tom Porter said officers will be aggressive in enforcing the law because of safety issues, along with the destruction studded tires do to road surfaces. Last year, the department issued about 100 citations within a week of the change-over deadline.

It might not be easy to see the studs on the tires while they're in motion, but they sound different on the pavement, he said. They pose a safety problem because studded tires also don't stop as well on clear pavement.

Studded tires also do more damage to a road on a warm summer day than on a cold day in January or February, said Bruce Brunette, materials engineer for the Southeast Region of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Facilities. The pavement is softer in the summer, he said.

Less wear from studded tires on Juneau's roads is in everyone's best interest because no one is happy when a road has to be resurfaced, Brunette said. Studded tires "have been very destructive on the pavement," he said.

Brunette said Egan Drive surface overlays were done in 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000. The current ruts where tires have worn away the surface are about two-tenths of an inch, which is acceptable, he said. Typically resurfacing is needed when the ruts reach a half to six-tenths of an inch.

Egan Drive was coated with harder wearing surface when it was last surfaced six years ago, which has extended its life, said Chris Morrow, regional maintenance and operations director Alaska DOT. Brunette figures this surface could last 11 years, instead of the usual five.

"Most roads in Juneau don't have that protection," he said.

While the threat of a traffic ticket may motivate many drivers to change tires, Wilcox said people seem to be coming in later this year because of a late cold snap. The shop sells about 2,500 studded tires a year and there is usually more urgency to put on tires that will grip on snow or ice than to take them off, he said.

"When we get our first snow, half of Juneau shows up," he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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